A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending July 23, 2009

Hizballah militiamen rush border, briefly seize unmanned Israeli lookout post


17 July: debkafile's military sources report that the IDF and northern command are urgently investigating how a large group of Hizballah terrorists and Lebanese villagers managed to rush the new border fence and hoist Lebanese and Hizballah flags at an unmanned Israeli lookout post at the foot of the Kfar Shuba Farms Hills. The incident occurred Friday, July 17 around the date of the third anniversary of the Lebanon war, a conflict that was in fact triggered by a Hizballah cross-border raid and kidnap of Israeli soldiers.

The intruders left when ordered to by UN peacekeepers. An Israeli force with three tanks arrived then and removed the flags.

The incursion led by Hizballah lawmaker Qassem Hashem was the second reminder in a week that the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group is on the march. Wednesday, July 15, a big blast at a Hizballah weapons depot situated illegally in the South Lebanese village of Khirbat Salim 20 kilometers from the Israeli border.


Police disperse massed protesters after ex-president Rafsanjani's Tehran sermon


17 July: The former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, broke his month-long silence on the violent street protests which erupted over allegations of fraud after Mahmoud Ahmadienjad's re-election on June 12.

In a tensely-awaited sermon at Tehran University, Friday, July 17, he called for the release of the hundreds of arrested protesters.

The prominent cleric said large numbers of Iranians still doubted the election result and something had to be done to allay those doubts.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi made his first public appearance in the front row of the audience.

“We are all members of a family,” Rafsanjani said. “I hope with this sermon we can pass through this period of hardships that can be called a crisis.”

Security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse the tens of thousands gathered in the streets of Tehran after the prayers, some chanting support for Mousavi, demanding Ahmadinejad's resignation and shouting “Down with Russia!” Others backed Ahmadinejad with shouts of “Down with America!”

Witnesses report 15 arrests.


July 18 Briefs


·        Clashes with South Lebanese Hizballah supporters prevent UN peacekeepers inspecting site of massive explosion at Khirbet Salim village last Wednesday. Fourteen UN personnel injured, their cars smashed. Blast site was suspected forward Hizballah position 20 km from Israeli border.

·        Hardline Iranian editor accuses Rafsanjani of backing “lawbreakers.”

·        US House intelligence committee decides to launch formal probe into alleged Cheney concealment of secret CIA program.

·        Somali gunmen kidnap three foreign aid workers in raid on Kenyan border town.


Iran is putting finishing touches on a desert A-test site east of Tehran


18 July: debkafile's military sources reveal that Iran is in the last stages of construction of a nuclear test site in the Kavir Lut desert between Tehran and its eastern border with Afghanistan. The work is managed by the Iranian experts who were invited to attend North Korea's nuclear test this year.

Two diplomats attached to the UN nuclear watchdog agency in Vienna confirmed July 18 that Iran now has the means to test a weapon within six months.

As recently as July 9, debkafile's military sources reported: “The US, Europe – and even the Binyamin Netanyahu government – appear to have adopted the same strategy for North Korea and Iran. It is a combination of harsh oral rebukes coupled with a refusal to address North Korea's violations and Iran's race for a nuclear bomb in any practical way, even though sanctions are clearly of no effect at all.

A blind eye is equally turned to the close collaboration between Pyongyang and Tehran on their missile and nuclear development programs. The two rogue states are also clearly in tune on their nuclear diplomacy and timetables.


Netanyahu rejects US demand to cancel housing project in east Jerusalem


19 July: Sunday, July 19, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu sharply rejected the US State Department demand handed to Israeli ambassador Michael Oran to put a stop to construction work at the Shepherd's Hotel site in Jerusalem. The abandoned hotel is located between the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and Mount Scopus, where the Hebrew University and Hadassah are situated.

Construction in Jerusalem, capital of Israel and the Jewish people, is not open to discussion, he said.

Building permits are issued by city authorities for Jews and Arabs alike.

The Shepherd's Hotel site originally belonged to the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and his heirs turned it into a hotel in the years between 1948 and 1967 when Jews were forbidden to set foot in Jerusalem. In the 1980s, the Husseinis sold the site to American businessman Irwin Moskowitz who intends building a Jewish housing estate of 20 apartments there.

Moskowitz has devoted himself to purchasing land from Palestinians in east Jerusalem for the construction of Jewish neighborhoods. Likewise, Jewish neighborhoods abutting on east Jerusalem and the West Bank, such as French Hill and Pisgat Zeev, have in recent years attracted a growing number of Palestinians apartment purchasers.


July 20 Briefs


·        State Department: US opposes Jerusalem construction in same way as West Bank settlement activity. New Israeli ambassador Michael Oren submits credentials to president Barack Obama.

·        Police recommend trying former PM Olmert for cronyism when he served as minister of industry, trade and labor. Their recommendation includes two former aides Raanan Dinur and Oved Yezkiel. The police close the corruption case over Olmert's home purchase.

·        Four US troops killed by roadside bomb in S. Afghanistan – 27 in July more than any moth in the eight-year war.

·        Israeli warplanes fly over S. Lebanese Marjayoun, Hasbaya, Tufah and Nabatiya Monday.

·        China and Russia hold big joint air-ground anti-terror exercise.

·        Gunfight across Gaza-Israel border Sunday night. No one hurt. It was sparked by Palestinians anti-tank missile fire at Israeli border patrol.

·        British soldier dies in explosion in Afghanistan – 17th this month.


Tehran: Israel's “200 nuclear warheads” must be part of Middle East disarmament before Iran's nuclear issue


20 July: Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said a new “comprehensive and updated” package aims to prepare the ground for more “fluid interaction” with the West provided it covers “the more than 200 nuclear warheads of the Zionist regime Israel.”

Saturday, July 18, the new head of the Iranian nuclear energy commission Ali Akbar Salehi said the time had come to end six years of animosity between Tehran and the West and start building bridges of trust. But he also said: “legal and technical discussions about Iran's nuclear case have finished and there is no room left to keep this case open.”

He denied Tehran had any plan to develop nuclear weaponry.


Some 60 US, Israeli and British warplanes begin war game over Nevada


20 July: Southern Nevadans were warned last week that 62 warplanes would take off twice a day from Nellis Air Force Base, home of 414th Combat US Training Squadron northwest of Las Vegas in the latest 11-day Red Flag exercise. They would see (and hear) Israeli and US Air force fighter-bombers in dogfights and bombing raids. The size of the air base, 111 kilometers long by 190 kilometers broad, enables large groups of aircraft to practice combat missions in wide spaces unavailable to their air crews at home.

A large number of Israeli F-16C fighter-bombers from IAF Squadron 110 are taking advantage of the opportunity for mock combat drills in large groups and bombing missions with live ordnance. They flew in directly from home base, refueling on the way.

US F-16CGs of the Ohio Air National Guard will join Israeli craft in missions for intercepting and downing enemy planes. Also taking part are US E-3 spy planes and US and British 135 transports.


A dangerous new al Qaeda cell strikes from Gaza


20 July: debkafile's military sources report that an aggressive new al Qaeda cell calling itself Jaljalat was been responsible for the last spate of cross-border attacks from the Gaza Strip. Our counter-terror sources report that Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who fought in Iraq and fled make up its hard core plus a score of Palestinian Hamas dropouts.

Sunday, July 19, Israeli Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin confirmed that “world Jihad” elements had recently infiltrated the Gaza Strip. In his briefing to the cabinet, he said they – not Hamas – were responsible for all the recent attacks on Israel military forces guarding the Israel-Gaza border.

debkafile's military sources add: Jaljalat most likely carried out the anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli military squad patrolling the Gaza border at Nahal Oz Sunday night, July 19. No Israelis were hurt but it is feared that the new al Qaeda cell is just getting into its stride.

The experts have two theories to explain why Hamas is taking al Qaeda attacks from its turf lying down: Its leaders find it hard to strike out against former members – is one. Another is that they have other fish to fry – Diskin believes they are deeply engaged in a bid to wrest the Palestinian leadership from the Fatah leader, the Palestinian authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and are not averse to fellow-jihadists keeping up their war operations against Israel.


Russia goes for key naval operation HQ at Syrian port: Missile presence worries Israel


21 July: A high-ranking Russian navy source reported July 21 that the Soviet-era naval maintenance base near Tartus in Syria is to be expanded and modernized to become “fully operational.” debkafile's military sources report that Russian is building the facility up as its main sea base for operations in four seas: The Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The upgrade of Russian port facilities at Tartus, its only foothold in the Mediterranean, will automatically enhance Moscow's strategic interests in Syria and Bashar Assad's regime.

Israel is deeply concerned by the sophisticated air-defense S-300PMU-2 and Iskander-E missile systems the Russians propose to hand Syria on the pretext of installing a shield to defend the facility against air or missile attack. Moscow claims they will remain under the control of Russian crews but, according to information reaching Israel, they will be quietly and gradually handed over to the Syrian army; the Russian teams are in fact instructors.

Russia justifies this, according to debkafile's Moscow sources, by the deployment of the highly sophisticated American FBX-T missile-interception radar systems at the Israeli Negev base of Nevatim and as a rejoinder for the disputed US deployment of missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.


debkafile: Mubarak's “state visit to Paris” masks serious surgery


22 July: Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak arrived in Paris Tuesday, July 21, for talks with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and prime minister Francois Fillon, billed officially as focusing on the Middle East and the outcome of the July 8 G8 summit. However, those talks did not yield the usual joint statements and, accordingly to debkafile's sources, were staged as a front for his admittance to a Paris hospital for tests and a surgical procedure later this week.

The nature of his ill health is blacked out by his aides.

In June 2004, Mubarak underwent a procedure for a slipped disc at the Munich Orthopedic Center.


Interceptor problems prevent Pacific test of Arrow II – setback for Israel in missile race with Iran


23 July: debkafile's military sources report a serious setback for Israel's defenses against Iranian ballistic missiles. Thursday, July 23, the newly upgraded Arrow II missile defense system, poised for its first long-range test at the US Pacific range off the central California coast, could not be launched because of “interceptor problems.” This left Israel's key defense system, designed to intercept long-range Iranian or Syrian missiles 1,000 kilometers or more away point, unproven.

Israel pointed to “malfunctions in the communications system.” The Pentagon reported: “Not all test conditions to launch the Arrow Interceptor were met and it was not launched.” In the test involving three US missile interceptors [Patriot, Thaad and Aegis], Arrow tracked a target missile dropped from a C-17 [Boeing Globemaster III] aircraft. Other objectives were achieved and the results are being analyzed.

Without the Arrow system, Israel is partly exposed to attack from Iran's Shehab 3 and Sejil-2 ballistic missiles, especially the latter which are more accurate and powered by solid fuel for instantaneous launching from deep inside Iran.

The failure of the Arrow test will shadow the important talks high-ranking American officials, defense secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser James Jones, are due to hold in Israel next week.

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